Since making his feature debut Benny & Jolene in 2014, Welsh writer and director Jamie Adams has racked up a whopping nine films! His process is very fluid and improvisational, crafting films on a low budget over a very short period of time and with no script in the traditional sense. His latest effort is romantic drama She is Love, which features a trio of terrific performances from Haley Bennett, Sam Riley, and Marisa Abela. I was fortunate enough to sit down with the prolific filmmaker to chat about the film…
It feels like a very long time since our last conversation, back when you had just made your festive film A Wonderful Christmas Time in 2014. How have you, your process, and your films changed in that time?
I’ve got older, more cynical, and more tired, so the process has changed. The truth of it is that every project is different. There’s different people involved; there’s different cast, crew, and their personalities, and you’re balancing all of that. You’re balancing the budget, the schedule, the scope of the vision. You’re balancing the story you want to tell versus what you’re able to tell.
You get more comfortable with the process like a sports person when they get into a routine of some kind; this is what I do when I’m preparing, this is what I do when I’m in the game, this is what I do afterwards. I can look back at something like A Wonderful Christmas Time for example, which is the second feature that we did in this way, and I could see myself mumbling on set as you’re not as confident about what you’re doing because you’re still finding it. You’re always still finding it, but at least you have more of a clue of how you’ll get to what it is you’re looking for.
Religion often rears its heavy head in the works of controversial writer and director Darren Aronofsky; from Mickey Rourke’s martyrdom in The Wrestler, an Eden allegory in mother!, and of course his epic adaptation of Noah. The biblical overtones return in his latest effort The Whale, which is based upon Samuel D. Hunter’s 2012 play of the same name. Brendan Fraser stars as Charlie, a morbidly obese English literature teacher who has become housebound due to his condition. He receives regular visits from his nurse Liz (Hong Chau), estranged teenage daughter Ellie (Sadie Sink), and Thomas (Ty Simpkins), a young missionary of the local New Life Church.
Known for documentary filmmaking on contemporary French society, writer and director Alice Diop has transitioned from fact to fiction for her latest effort. Based upon the 2016 court case of Fabienne Kabou, legal drama Saint Omer follows teacher and novelist Rama (Kayije Kagame), as she researches the Greek tragedy of Medea for her next book. For inspiration, she attends the trial of Senegalese woman Laurence Coly (Guslagie Malanda), accused of murdering her 15-month-old daughter.
Todd Field began his career in film as an actor before making his directorial debut in 2001 with In the Bedroom. It’s been seventeen years since his last effort, which is a testament to the detail he applies to the craft. His latest feature is Tár, a psychological thriller of sorts starring Cate Blanchett in the eponymous role.
There’s no question that Sam Mendes is a talented filmmaker, with films such as American Beauty, Road to Perdition, and Skyfall to his name. Known predominantly for his directing, his first writing credit came when he co-wrote the 1917 screenplay a few years ago, but his latest sees him on script duty once again. Set in the 1980s on the south coast of England, romantic drama Empire of Light takes place in around an independent picture house. Struggling with mental health problems, duty manager Hilary (Olivia Colman) forms an intimate friendship with new employee Stephen (Michael Ward), who is facing his own difficulties.
Best known for playing beloved vet Paddy in the long-running soap Emmerdale, actor Dominic Brunt pursues his other passion off-screen. Away from the Dales, he directs horror films, and his latest feature is werewolf comedy slasher Wolf Manor. Set in the English countryside and written by Pete Wild and Joel Ferrari, it presents a fun take on the sub-genre as the film shoot for a vampire flick is disrupted in the night by a deadly lycanthrope. I was fortunate enough to sit down with the director to discuss the film.
Wolf Manor is now your fifth feature within the last decade or so. Does the process get any easier or are there different challenges to each one?
It’s still very difficult, actually, I think because no film is exactly the same and no scene is the same. I think I’m getting better in the way of not panicking, and Marc Price (director of zombie film Colin on a budget of £45) is a fellow director and is brilliant at sorting out problems. He always says, ‘just press record’, you know, get it done. If the problems are there, they can be sorted out later so in the face of adversity, he’s the best one to be around. I think I’ve learned that preparing and preparing and preparing, getting a shot list, and making sure you know the locations back to front, and talking to the actors beforehand, saying, ‘Look, trust me, when you stand there, and you move where I tell you to when I say to move, I’ll make it look good. I promise you won’t look stupid’. The last thing actors want to hear is anybody flapping but it’s always scary. It’s a million-piece jigsaw putting together a film. So yeah, the short answer I think is in some ways, I don’t think anybody gets any better at filmmaking.
With a spate of new comic book movies, indie darlings, and Tom Cruise soaring to box office heights once again, 2022 has been a pretty stellar year for film-goers with something for everyone on the silver screen. In recent months, the taste of cinema has been soured by the closure of several independent picture houses up and down the country, including the Filmhouse in Edinburgh, my beloved local. As we approach awards season with new releases from the likes of Steven Spielberg, Damien Chazelle, and Darren Aronofsky just around the corner, I pick out my favourites from this years’ selection…
Scottish drama Aftersun by writer and director Charlotte Wells has been knocking audiences for six on the film festival circuit. The plot follows dad Calum, played by Normal People star Paul Mescal, and his daughter Sophie on an all-inclusive week in the sun. Beautifully told through the memories of an older Sophie as she reflects on the holiday years later, the film explores how our perception of our parents can change over time. I was fortunate enough to sit down with 12-year-old Frankie Corio who plays the young Sophie in the film. Already shortlisted for various awards, this is just the beginning for this rising star!
There are elements of Aftersun that are incredibly dark and melancholic but, at the same time, it’s all shot in the summer sun. Did you have fun on the shoot and what was your favourite part of the experience?
All of it! Filming was really fun and most of the stuff I was doing didn’t really feel like work. It was great and it was so hot, so I loved all of it but mainly the nice hot weather!
Filmmakers often tell the story of their childhood through their pictures; recent examples of this include Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma and Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast. Acclaimed writer and director James Gray looks back at his own formative years in Armageddon Time, a coming-of-age drama set in Queens, New York City in 1980. The semi-autobiographical plot follows schoolkid Paul (Banks Repeta) who becomes friends with black student Johnny (Jaylin Webb) on his first day of sixth grade, bonding over their fascination with space travel. His mother Esther (Anne Hathaway) and father Irving (Jeremy Strong) struggle to cope with their son’s regular mischievous behaviour, but he always listens to his grandpa Aaron (Anthony Hopkins) who inspires and mentors the youngster, delivering nuggets of wisdom and teaching him about the importance of his family’s Jewish roots.
Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne have been favourites at Cannes Film Festival for many years and were awarded the special 75th anniversary award for their latest effort. The film, their twelfth collaboration as both writers and directors, is Tori & Lokita, a drama which follows two youngsters seeking asylum in modern-day Belgium. Posing as brother and sister though in fact they are really good friends who met on the boat from Benin, Tori (Pablo Schils) and Lokita (Mbundu Joely) turn to petty crime to make ends meet whilst they wait for their immigration paperwork.